Big Data

What happens when BIM meets the IoT?

BIM, building information model or modeling, brings all parts of a building design together into one complete system; it's no longer a collection of unconnected parts. The plumbing exists in context with the electrical work and one can see if there are conflicts that will make the construction or renovation process more complicated.

What happens when BIM meets the IoT?

With the Internet of Things (IoT) we're starting to see new devices for buildings like smart thermostats, talking fridges and lights that react to your presence. What happens when we add BIM to this and how does it help the day to day operations and management of the building? This is exactly what the Environment and Ergonomics team at Autodesk Research set out to discover with Project Dasher.

 

Autodesk Research Project Dasher
Project Dasher connects BIM with the IoT

 

What seems like a simple question kicked off a whole bunch of work. Many newly designed buildings will have a BIM. For an older building, like the Autodesk office in Toronto, the team had to create one. They learned about reality capture and laser scanned the building. This resulted in the Digital 210 King project.

They then set about creating a network of sensors and software to monitor things in the building like the movement of occupants in the building to adjust heating levels as people congregate and the position of the sun changes, amount of lighting relative to natural light entering the building and levels of energy usage.

 

Autodesk Research Project Dasher Sensors
Sensors to monitor building performance including, lighting, motion and carbon dioxide.


As you can imagine, this creates a lot of data for building operations people to deal with. The team developed novel ways to represent the data in context of the building. You can see heating laid overtop of the model as well as the paths of people moving through the building.

Autodesk Research Dasher Trails
As occupants move through the building, their motion can be visualized with overlapping trails to highlight the busiest areas
Autodesk Research Dasher Heat
Exploring the heat of a building

 

The following video shows how some of this works in real time.

 

Now that I have all this data what do I do with it?

At this point, the team can begin to learn from the data and apply it to other buildings for the ultimate sustainable design project. Designers could use the same tools that building operation people use to simulate the building before it is is built. They can try different sustainability techniques and technologies for optimal building performance. 

You can read more about this exciting work on the Digital Environment page. If you liked this article, please share it with your sustainable design friends through the links below.

 


Toronto's Civic Design Camp - The Keynotes

Toronto, and Canada's, first Civic Design Camp was held on Friday, June 26 bringing together designers, public servants, and civic innovators to harness the power of design to create better citizen experiences and tackle public challenges. Autodesk Research participated to learn and help people imagine, design and create a better world.

Civic Design Camp

Toronto's Civic Design Camp was hosted at MaRS by Joeri van den Steenhoven of the MaRS Solution Lab (MSL). MSL is currently collaborating on four challenges with citizens, government, foundations, corporations, and NGOs:

  • Future of Health
  • Future of Food
  • Future of Work and Learning
  • Future of Government

Joeri kicked off the day and introduced three great speakers on design challenges, approaches and obligations towards improving citizen involvement for creating a better world:

Nigel explained that New Urban Mechanics is the R+D lab for the Mayor of Boston. They cast a wide net for ideas, try them out as quickly and cheaply as possible and embrace failure as success - if they're not failing, they're not trying enough new and different things - failure leads to innovation.

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Nigel talked about a bunch of the projects they had worked on. One of the coolest being the mobile city hall; a truck that can drive around to different neighbourhoods offering many of the city services like access to marriage and pet licenses.

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Katie Verigen summed up Nigel's three main points with respect to citizens and governement working together in her sketchnotes as:

  1. Good design makes people like you
  2. Good design encourages real conversations
  3. Good design is about learning

Cdc3Next up was Jess McMullin talking about Big Picture Design and the interconnectedness of systems, strategy, policy and delivery caught in a rising storm of complexity. His first example was of water pipes breaking in a hospital in Edmonton. Getting this fixed seems like an easy thing to do but factor in the oil-based economy and current low prices and it becomes more complicated. Things that seem easy, can result in problems if you don't keep the big picture in mind when designing - a couple other examples:

  • Florida's butterfly ballot that confused and disappointed voters
  • Presto transit cards and the complications for setting up payments

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Going further, Jess talked about Healthcare.Gov placing one big bet on 80 contractors versus breaking the challenge down into chunks and making some smaller, less risky bets. Their focus on the interface lost out to cultural issues.

In looking at the big picture, spend time up front where the cost of changes is low.

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As a positive example, he used the California State Tax Ready Return that does your taxes for you. It sends you the statement and if you agree, you just pay what it says. This is easy fir tax payers and easier for the government to collect - everybody's happy (at least relatively).

The third and final keynote speaker was Dana Chisnell, co-founder of the Center for Civic Design. Dana had a number of great points for civic designers to consider when engaging with government:

  • Government wants technology but needs design: this doesn't mean that designers should charge in thinking they will save the day. They should bring their skills in gently and help to train public servants in good design practice. They should be patient and solve one problem at a time 
  • Government is filled with designers but they don't have design in their job title or description: Like any designer, these people take charge, they solve problems with passion and ingenuity.

 And perhaps Dana's most important note on design: focus on problems!

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In an upcoming post we'll talk about the Civic Design Camp Unconference, design challenges and solutions - see you soon! 

You can see more about the Civic Design Camp from Amanada Judd on Storify:


Autodesk releases the Molecule Viewer to Labs

Have you ever wanted to view molecules in high-fidelity from the comfort of your own web browser? Well now you can thanks to the Bio/Nano group at Autodesk Research

Autodesk Research Molecule Viewer

Merry Wang from the group explains that the Bio/Nano group is building on Autodesk's expertise as a toolmaker for designers of things like buildings, cars and roads. This group is making tools to design living things. They're starting with a tool to visualize complex data at the nanoscale.

 In the image below, you can see a sample of the viewer displaying a Recombinant Hemoglobin molecule.  

Autodesk Research Molecule Viewer Hemoglobin

Users of the Molecule Viewer can bring in their own custom data or draw from the RCSB Protein Data Bank (PDB). Here's a view of the Crystal Structure of Human Fibrogen.

Autodesk Research Molecule Viewer Human Fibrogen
Here's an alternate view but instead of looking at the structure in Ribbon mode, we are looking at a combination of Ball & Stick with Surface display. The highlighted portion starting at the top left is Chain B.

Autodesk Research Molecule Viewer Fibrogen

Each display mode has a number of options such as chain, residue and bfactor as you can see below in this view of Crystal Structure of the full-length Human RAGE Extracellular Domain (aka 4lp5) - the RCSB PDB Molecule of the Month of June.

Autodesk Research Molecule Viewer

The UI is nicely laid out and allows you to explore the Chains, Residues and Atoms of the molecule quickly and easily.

Autodesk Research Molecule Viewer

Sounds exciting, right? Head on over to Autodesk Labs and try it out! You can also check out the Wet Lab Accelerator for assistance in running your tests.

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Point Cloud Visualization of Autodesk Toronto

Digital 210 King is part of Project Dasher, a research project designed to study buildings as living organisms. The Autodesk Toronto office was laser scanned, creating a point cloud that could be used to create a Building Information Model (BIM). 

To support the community in studying how buildings operate, the Autodesk Research team has provide the dataset for the building. Kai Kostack has worked with the point cloud data to create a very artistic look at the building which you can watch below.


Dreamcatcher: The End of Design As We Know It?

Noted designer Dan Saffer wrote a good piece about the future of design and what changes could be coming called The End of Design As We Know It. Dan says:

"These changes will be drastic and design will never be the same afterwards. The canary in the coal mine is Autodesk’s Project Dreamcatcher...To many people this is a bleak, grim, oh-shit-there-goes-my-job, future." 

Autodesk Dreamcatcher End Of Design As We Know It

It's nice to being working on a project that captures attention and generates strong discussion. If you haven't heard of Project Dreamcatcher before, the high-level pitch is that you can supply the computer with a bunch of design goals and have the computer develop a bunch of options that meet your criteria for further refinement.

Dan goes on to make some good points on how this could work to benefit the designer as well as things that the designer will still be good at. A while back Erin, Francesco and Mark from the Dreamcatcher team did some research on how designers might interact with such a system and documented it in a paper called Parameters Tell the Design Story: Ideation and Abstraction in Design Optimization. The main finding from this research is summed up as:

"We found that the computed optimum was often used as the starting point for design exploration, not the end product."

In other words, designers would use such a system to generate and explore solutions, possibly finding unexpected solutions. Some call this design optioneering. In this sense we can redefine the meaning of CAD. With typical workflows, most of the design is still happening in the designer's head and the computer is helping to document those ideas - CAD could mean Computer Aided Documentation. Now with the computer actually doing design work, we can truly realize Computer Aided Design.

Autodesk Research Project Dreamcatcher

In common workflows, every design that must be delivered to a client takes time, effort and money so clients usually only get a couple of options. 

How does Design Optioneering Work?

Let's look at building design. There are a number of constraints to be considered, including:

  • site utilization
  • structural design
  • building form
  • energy use

  • buildability

  • operating costs

This many requirements can be very complex to design for and creates a huge number of possible outcomes. So huge actually that we can't even imagine a small fraction of the possibilities due to cognitive limitations. Using high performance computing and big data analysis techniques, many more design alternatives can be explored for a problem space.

To show how this might work, we can look at an architectural project researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) did at the Autodesk IdeaStudio with similar constraints. They developed a model and automated the process of exploring the design space. In their work, the USC researchers analysed the options to show how the different results met the criteria with both visual and quantitative results.

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Design Optioneering from University of Southern California Researchers at Autodesk IdeaStudio

We could see a place in the future where designers could easily modify the results for further exploration. Instead of choosing between options A, B and C, designers could further explore the design space between options A and C by changing some design parameters. Of course, designers could modify the resulting CAD file to further customize and finalize the design. 

What do designers think?

In looking at how designers would work with Project Dreamcatcher, what kind of feedback did the team get?

“instead of starting with nothing, you start with something…your optimum gives you a starting hunch.”

“slight variations to form, to a designer’s eye, are either elegant or fat.”

“Good design has inspiration to it...if you have that vision you can encode it and parameterize it and explore it further. Now we have a rich flora of options.”

This indicates that such tools are beneficial and could help to improve the design process. Sounds great but what are the challenges?

Dan pointed out that these kinds of workflows would require some different thinking:

"In order to provide the algorithm the right information to suggest solutions, you have to be certain you’re solving the right problem."

Working differently through Design Optimization

One of the ways the Dreamcatcher team thinks about this is with design optimization. Design optimization puts the emphasis on defining the design problem. Design optimization is important to sustainability. Users of design optimization are making buildings and products more structurally sound with less building materials.

In a typical CAD workflow, one follows these steps:

  • design
  • evaluate
  • select or redesign

With Design Optimization, the steps are:

  • define the problem
  • generate and explore
  • select or redefine 

One participant in the study compared these two processes:

“The typical design workflow is to design then throw to the analyst. Redesign. And then keep playing catch. It’s inefficient. [Design optimization] captures the criteria that are important to you then [you] have the cloud process all the permutations.”

Uses of Design Design Optimization Autodesk Research
Uses of Design Optimization

Thinking differently will not be without challenges. This could require new skills and language. One study participant said:

“1200 variations, you’re not being an architect any more. You are a computer programmer."

Another stressed that the controls need to be easy to understand, control and help you produce good results:

“parameters need to tell the design story.”

This is great feedback and guidance. This is one of the main reasons we do research. Autodesk Research and the Dreamcatcher team are up for the challenge. As Dan said in his blog post:

"Lastly, the way all progress moves forward is by someone thinking differently, trying something that no one else has tried, breaking the established traditions and rules. This is the same in design as in any other field."

Project Dreamcatcher could be the end of design as we know it and like when we transitioned from paper documentation to computer documentation of designs, we may wonder how we ever got anything done before.